Carpet diplomacy, sometimes also referred to as ‘rug diplomacy’, is a term used to describe the use of cultural exchanges, particularly through the art of carpet weaving or the gifting of carpets, as a means to foster goodwill, dialogue, and understanding between nations or cultures. Carpets and rugs have long been considered symbols of culture, art, and craftsmanship, and they can serve as a bridge to connect people and facilitate diplomatic relationships.
Carpet diplomacy can take various forms, such as:
Cultural exchanges: Exhibitions, workshops, or events showcasing traditional carpets or the art of carpet weaving can be organised to promote understanding and appreciation of the cultural heritage associated with the craft.
Diplomatic gifts: Gifting a carpet or rug can be a sign of goodwill and respect between leaders or diplomats, helping to create a positive atmosphere for diplomatic discussions or negotiations.
Economic ties: The trade of carpets and rugs can play a role in building economic relationships between countries, as it supports the growth of local industries and encourages cultural exchanges.
Preservation of cultural heritage: Collaborative efforts to preserve and promote traditional carpet weaving techniques can foster cultural diplomacy and strengthen ties between countries that share a common interest in protecting their heritage.
In general, carpet diplomacy is a softer form of diplomacy that emphasises the importance of cultural connections and understanding in building strong diplomatic relationships.
Traditionally, carpets were used as a way to strengthen relationships between rulers and foreign dignitaries. One of the most famous examples of carpet diplomacy dates back to the 16th century, when the Safavid Empire of Persia sent a large, intricately-woven carpet to the court of the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. According to historical accounts, the carpet was so grand that it was placed on a marble platform in the throne room of the palace. The gesture was meant to symbolise the importance of the Safavid-Ottoman alliance and to serve as a reminder of the strength of the relationship between the two empires. This form of diplomacy was so effective that it was used for centuries afterwards and is still in practice today.